Photography Oliver Jaskowski
“There’s something about people who know their bodies. They just live life fuller.”
Evan casually drops this profound statement as he sips his coffee. It’s easy to see what he means. His posture is soft, but strong. Shoulders relaxed while his spine stays upright, core engaged. He holds himself with a quiet confidence that is enviable. There is an awareness there that only a dancer could hold.
The body is a map of our inner lives. Our skin is lined with the reflection of our thoughts. Shoulders strain from expectations. Feet callus from participation. Our bodies are memory and emotion manifesting in a physical way. Evan has grown intimate with this understanding.
Upon graduating high school, Evan applied for the esteemed Kaufman School of Dance at the University of Southern California. Only 24 students are accepted into the program each year; Evan being one of them. Being faced with these statistics didn't seem to phase him in the least. It was never a pursuit of praise, but rather passion.
Evan came upon his passion for dance purely by coincidence, when his father - having both parental expectations and nothing to lose - enrolled him in a dance class. He recalls, with a smile, his father’s feedback at the end of the class, “You were the worst one in there”, he said. Something had changed, though, and for the first time, Evan knew he had found what he was meant to be doing all along.
Day after day, he was placed in front of a mirror and told to analyze his body. The way it moved. “Much of my early training taught me about my flaws. Dancers are expected to pick themselves apart in the pursuit of perfection. I formed an intimate relationship with my weaknesses. My fragility”. Evan was enthused by the challenge and basked in its reward.
“Dance is my boyfriend. He’s toxic and tough, but I always come back. I will always come back”.
Along with his studies at Kaufman, Evan participated in winter and summer intensives including Jacob’s Pillow Gaga Program, Netherlands Dans Theatre Summer Intensive, and Springboard Danse Montreal. It was in these spaces that he was shown the multitude of approaches to dance as a medium. With his previous training acting as a foundation, he began to explore how his body could communicate through movement. Allowing it to respond as it wished, rather than as it was told. At the height of this experimentation, Evan - along with the rest of the world - was forced to stop everything as we nosedived into a global pandemic.
Evan found himself growing more disconnected from his craft each day he was confined within the four walls of his childhood bedroom. “The thing with dance is it’s most effective when you’re right in front of it. When someone’s turning and their sweat slaps you in the face. You can hear the breath, feel the energy. With the pandemic, that was simply not an option. We were put in an environment that wasn’t conducive for the medium”. He worked to remain on top of his training, taking online ballet classes and staying active, but there was an undercurrent of change. “The constraint allowed for interesting things to emerge and with the moment we’re in with technology, we are able to reimagine what dance can be. There is no wrong answer”. Evan and his peers were willing to try anything to reconnect with the outside world through dance.
This movement led to the blossoming of something bigger. Positively impacted by collaboration, Evan found himself exploring dance in new contexts. In partnership with filmmaker Tre'len Johnston, Evan formed Strangers, an arts collective that explores the connection between movement and visual arts. “We are in a genreless era of dance. It’s so exciting. I don’t have a preferred way of creating, I just like to create. It can be an image, an idea, a song, or even a person that sparks inspiration. It rarely works in a narrative fashion and that’s okay.”
Grounded by his background and experience, Evan has developed a sense of confidence that has allowed him to redefine what dance is for him. “At first it is a lot of inward focus, but then you get to look away.”
In April 2023, Evan appeared in the “Never Felt So Alone” music video for Labrinth and Billie Eilish. He’s currently working with Nicole Von Arx of NVA & Guests on her latest piece, SOI, creating “interdisciplinary and evocative movement-based live performances and films that forge genuine connections among the spectator, stage, and screen”.
Whether it is choreographing a new piece or participating in bringing forth someone’s vision, Evan keeps movement at the core of everything he does. His work is a testament to how dance can say what so many other mediums fail to articulate. “It’s in the way we order coffee. The way we call our parents. The way we fight and the way we love. Dance is the universal language. A keyhole into something greater. We are all dancers”.
If you would like to connect with Evan and learn more about his work, you can follow him at @evansagadencky on Instagram.